I missed this article by Evan Fraser and Andrew Rimas in Foreign Affairs when it came out in January and discovered it last week while doing bibliographical research for a grant proposal.
Aside from the fact that Fraser and Rimas seem to confuse the effects of rising food prices and food price volatility, anyone with an interest in food policy should read it, as it nicely illustrates the fact that food prices alone are unlikely to trigger political unrest:
“Assuming a connection among rising prices, hunger, and violent civic unrest seems logical. (…)
But for all the noisy media coverage and declarations by senior policymakers, few people have remarked on the actual motives of those who, in 2008, destroyed property in Argentina, Egypt, India, Indonesia, and Peru and brought down Haiti’s government and are currently causing havoc in Tunisia and across the Middle East. After all, food riots have occurred throughout history but have not usually correlated with hunger or food prices. For the most part, the planet’s 700 million-900 million hungry people have suffered in silence. And price volatility does not necessarily lead to screaming crowds, either. There are many more examples of people accepting volatile prices than rioting over them. So there is more to the protests than the logic of the pocketbook. A key psychological element — a sense of injustice that arises between seeing food prices rise and pouring a Molotov cocktail — is missing.”
I was also unaware that Fraser and Rimas had a book out on the topic, which I am looking forward to read once my grades for this semester are entered.